The Geopolitics of Civil War: External Military Aid, Competitive Intervention, and Duration of Intrastate Conflict
While civil wars proliferated during the Cold War, their numbers have declined in the post-Cold War period. What is more, new conflicts breaking out since 1990 have much shorter average durations than their Cold War predecessors. What explains changing trends in the incidence and duration of civil war? To answer this question, Anderson’s dissertation, “The Geopolitics of Civil War: External Military Aid, Competitive Intervention, and Duration of Intrastate Conflict,” explored how inter-state competition affects intrastate conflict. He argued that the varying prevalence of what he calls competitive interventions; two-sided, simultaneous military assistance from different third-party states to both government and rebel combatants; is central to the decline in war, and he developed a theory of competitive intervention that models and explains why this form of external military aid prolongs violent intrastate conflicts. The theory explored the micro-foundations of military aid and civil war; explained the unique strategic dilemmas competitive interventions entail for third-party interveners; and accounted for the decline in the incidence and duration of civil war by linking changes at the level of the international system to variation in the prevalence of competitive intervention over time. To test his theory, Anderson combined statistical analyses of a novel time-series data set of military aid to civil war combatants (1975-2009) with detailed case studies, fieldwork, and archival research. His results shed new light on the international dimensions of civil war, addressed ongoing debates concerning the utility of military aid as a foreign policy instrument, identified which forms of intervention facilitate, and which impede, conflict management strategies, and informed policies prescriptions aimed at resolving today’s most violent conflicts.